Webinar: COP21 and Local Governments

FCM_logoLocal governments are often best placed to take meaningful action on climate change. Climate impacts will vary regionally, and often specific and localized responses will be best able to respond to these regional differences.

With this in mind, check out this free webinar being hosted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) on the upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris.

Join this webinar and learn about the ways your local government can take action on climate change leading up to and after the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Paris. Representatives from all levels of government and sectors will participate in the summit this December, with the goal of achieving a new international agreement that will apply to all countries.  FCM along with other local government partners will attend to represent the voice of local government.

The webinar is Wednesday, October 21st, at 12pm EDT. Register here! 


Fossil Fuel Divestment Kicks Into Overdrive

Source: David McNew- Getty Images  Time.com

Source: David McNew- Getty Images

Divesting from fossil fuels has been quickly gaining popularity in recent years. This tactic removes both financial and symbolic support for the fossil fuel industry, and promotes a transition to renewable energy.

According to a new report, more than 400 organizations and 2000 individuals with $2.6 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Last year, the total amount being divested was only $50 billion. Clearly, this strategy is gaining steam as more and more people become fed up with the fossil fuel industry and are looking for ways to stop being complicit in its continuation.

Read the full story here.

If you haven’t already, check out ACT’s work on promoting a renewable economy in British Columbia. Switching to a low-carbon economy here at home is not only necessary, it is completely possible. See the report here. 


U.S.-China climate change agreement places pressure on Canada to get in line

Screenshot 2015-09-28 21.35.38The U.S. and China took significant steps Thursday to align climate change policy, creating new pressure on Canada to follow suit.

The new agreement signed between the super-powers of the United States and China on reducing climate change marginalizes Canada even more, according to Douglas Macdonald, a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment.

“It makes Canada even more of an outlier in terms of the approach that the federal government is taking,” Macdonald said. “The federal government has not been active on the file.”

Macdonald pointed out that under Stephen Harper Canada has been committed to working in alignment with U.S. federal policies, therefore the new international agreement will place more pressure on the country to line up with current climate change deals.

Louise Comeau, executive director of the Climate Action Network in Ottawa, agrees that a North American approach may be in the offing following the new U.S.-China agreement. “Canada will be forced to be accountable because the Americans are going to ensure that that’s the case.”

Continue reading here.


Group asks Canadians: Use your vote to end the war on science

Dalhousie University scientist Thomas Duck says the government has caused climate change to almost completely drop from the national conversation. (JONATHAN HAYWARD / The Canadian Press / File)

Dalhousie University scientist Thomas Duck says the government has caused climate change to almost completely drop from the national conversation. (JONATHAN HAYWARD / The Canadian Press / File)

In the last decade the federal government has successfully launched a comprehensive war on science, says Dalhousie physics professor Thomas Duck, and it’s time for Canadians to start tuning in before irreparable damage is done.

He is one of thousands of Canadians and dozens of organizations that have signed a pledge vowing to cast their vote in the upcoming federal election for the party that best reflects scientific values. Others include environmental activist David Suzuki, author Margaret Atwood, and former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page. The initiative is being organized by the non-partisan, not-for-profit Evidence for Democracy in an effort to make make science a ballot-box issue.

“Science is such a huge force in our lives and yet we don’t usually explicitly discuss it during an election,” said Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy.

Though it underpins almost every major election topic, science on its own is rarely talked about on the campaign trail.

Continue reading here.


Eco-geeks hold open source alternative to UN climate talks

Designer Daniel Connell is creating a prototype wind turbine that can be built for £20. Photograph: Tristan Copley Smith

Designer Daniel Connell is creating a prototype wind turbine that can be built for £20. Photograph: Tristan Copley Smith

In reaction to the failure of COP21, POC21 has brought together a network of 100 plus designers, makers and eco-geeks to innovate a new breed of sustainable lifestyle products. In the unusual setting of an ancient French castle, 12 selected projects have spent the last five weeks developing portable solar power systems, low-waste self-filtering showers, upcycled wind turbines, urban food production systems, affordable electric bicycles and human-powered agricultural machines.

“We need the tools to create different buying and consumption patterns,” Wind continues. “Tools that are less destructive and more sustainable. Then we [will] form global communities around these tools, bringing people together to amplify their impact, exchange what works best and speed up the process of adoption.”

Continue reading here.



Learning event: Climate-smart agriculture in the field – planning, implementation and upscaling

FAO/Janie Rioux

FAO/Janie Rioux

All interested participants are welcome to join the online learning event ‘Climate-smart agriculture in the field – planning, implementation and upscaling’ during the month of October 2015. The event consists of two webinars and a facilitated online discussion taking place during the whole month of October.

The content of the event is targeted at agriculture and climate change practitioners working on Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) field projects.

Enrol through our web form

To learn more about climate adaptation, biodiversity, crops and food supply, see the following ACT reports:

Biodiversity Reports

Crops & Food Supply



Register Now: Feast and Famine Workshop

Register now for Feast and Famine- Solutions & Tools in Response to a Changing Climate in BC, a full-day workshop on December 1st in Richmond.

The ‘new normal’ in British Columbia is floods and droughts. The summer dry season has extended on both ends and we can no longer count on a predictable snowpack and reliable rain to maintain a healthy water balance in our watersheds. Annual volumes of water entering and exiting our regions are not necessarily changing; instead, what is changing is how and when water arrives – it is feast AND famine!

Take advantage of early bird registration until November 15th! For more information and registration information, click here.

A keynote presenter at this event is Bob Sandford, ACT’s senior water policy adviser. Bob is the co-author of ACT’s new book, “The Climate Nexus”, which looks at the nexus between water, food, energy and biodiversity in a changing climate and will be released shortly. Bob also authored ACT’s report “Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance.” This work remains relevant for both decision makers and concerned citizens to conceptualize how water needs to be managed in a changing climate. Check out this report here if you haven’t yet.

Bob is also the coauthor of the United Nations “Water in the World We Want” report on post2015 global sustainable development goals relating to water. His latest book, soon to be published, is titled “Storm Warning: Water & Climate Security in a Changing Canada.”




INVESTABLE CITY: 2015 Canadian Urban Forum – October 8th, Toronto

Invest City

Sustainable Prosperity invites you to attend an event presented by the Canadian Urban Institute and ReNew Canada.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Canadian Urban Forum 8AM – 5PM (Cocktail Reception to follow)
CUI Brownie Awards Gala & Dinner 6PM – 8:30PM
Daniels Spectrum, Toronto


  • Opening Plenary: Canada’s Opportunity to Create INVE$TABLE CITIES, The Hon. Glen Murray, MPP, Ontario’s Minister of Environment & Climate Change
  • Four interactive sessions allow attendees to raise issues and query panels: Creating Investment-Ready ConditionsGetting to Effective Public PolicyBuilding Economically Resilient Infrastructure; and Integrating Procurement, Policy & Process
  • Lunch Keynote: Strategic Infrastructure Investment Insights Dr. Anne F. Kerr, Global Head, Urbanisation, Mott MacDonald Group
  • 2015 CUI Brownie Awards Gala & Dinner to follow the Forum.

Click to view event program



Group rates and sponsorship opportunities are available. Call (416) 365-0816 ext. 251

The Canadian Forum is presented in collaboration with: Sustainable Prosperity, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario and the Canadian Brownfields Network.


Purchase Tickets


A New “Normal”: Our Climate is Changing, and Vulnerable People Everywhere Are On the Move

Tuktoyaktuk http://www.tuk.ca/photos.html

Tuktoyaktuk http://www.tuk.ca/photos.html

First in a weekly series of blogs on climate change and population displacement.

By Claire Havens, ACT population displacement researcher.

Last week on the bohemian, cafe-lined streets of Melbourne, I met a 25-year old Pakistani refugee canvassing for the UNHCR. When I asked him why his family had fled Pakistan to Australia, his answer was direct and clear: “climate change.” Surprised to hear this very frank answer, I probed him further; he revealed that extreme and unprecedented flooding in the valley where his family lived, combined with irresponsible forestry practices in the surrounding mountains, had destroyed his village and their way of life. They were fortunate to find refuge in an OECD country through the tightly controlled and sluggish official refugee application process. I say fortunate, because many desperate migrants seeking refuge in Australia attempt to make the journey by boats and, when intercepted, are detained in camps for years on offshore islands such as the Micronesian nation of Nauru.

For the past month, headlines around the world have been focused on the European migrant (refugee) crisis. Politicians and decision makers have pledged to do more, speed up government response to the crisis, provide aid for UNHCR refugee camps, and continue either military or intelligence activity against ISIS in Syria where many of the refugees are from. In Canada, the upcoming election has heightened the debate with party leaders attempting to outdo each other on how many refugees they think we should take in, and how best to respond to the conflict in Syria.

While it seems as if this crisis came out of nowhere, many climate change and migration specialists have been predicting mass exodus of people from climate vulnerable countries for over a decade. In 2008, when Gwynne Dyer released his book “Climate Wars” foreseeing an increase in failed states and conflict exacerbated by climate change, and waves of refugees globally, this perspective was seen as alarmist. In 2015, it is far more prophetic.

Climate change will result in significant migration, both within countries, and from more vulnerable regions across borders to more stable areas. Sea level rise, extended droughts, flooding – all will contribute to the destabilization of political and economic systems, as well as directly affecting residents of vulnerable coastlines, parched agricultural land, or degraded watersheds. A wonderful graphic representation of the chain reaction set off by an extended drought in Syria, leading to the political strife and conflict we see today, can be viewed here.

If you’re still skeptical of the role climate has played in the Syrian conflict, a Scientific American article in March outlined research efforts that explain how warmer temperatures and drought increase the risk of violent conflict globally. In it, Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University asserts “The Syrian war has now taken on a life of its own…however, a drought made worse by climate change was one important factor that initiated the social unraveling.”

It’s not just conflicts exacerbated by climate that will create refugees, climate change, in and of itself, is likely to cause mass migration. As Simon Lewis, Professor at University College London puts it in a recent Guardian article, “Climate and vegetation zones are shifting, so the Mediterranean will likely keep getting drier this century, with knock-on negative social and economic impacts. That will be tough for Spain, Italy and Greece, where significant numbers of people may move north, and of course, displaced people from elsewhere wouldn’t stay in the Mediterranean, they’d keep travelling north.” The article’s author notes, “In other words, the Mediterranean countries currently trying to cope with migrants from other parts of the world may eventually have a migrant crisis of their own.”

This is an important warning for Canada, where we are already seeing the effects of melting permafrost on remote northern communities such as Pangnirtung or sea level rise in Tuktoyaktuk. Internal population displacement is already occurring, and while the world and Canada’s attention turns to desperate people in refugee camps in the Middle East, we should also be preparing for movement within our own borders. Vulnerable people the world over will be most severely impacted by the effects of climate change and related political and economic upheaval. It’s high time we develop a cohesive strategy for how we define, plan for, and welcome diverse “climate refugees” and internal displaced peoples over the coming decades.






When: October 1st at the Vogue theatre, 7-10pm.

Who: David Suzuki and Peter Victor in conversation with special guests

Canada’s most trusted influencer, geneticist and broadcaster, David Suzuki, has spent a career raising awareness of environmental issues. Economist Peter Victor, author of Managing Without Growth, has spent over 40 years working on environmental problems and is one of the founders of ecological economics. Both believe economics needs rethinking. These two influential thinkers will exchange views on what ecologists and economists need to learn from each other in order to come to a truly ecological economics that illuminates how human wellbeing can be secured within the planet’s limits.

To explore what ecological economics means on the ground, David and Peter will be joined by special guests Andrea Reimer, Tamara Vrooman & Merran Smith. The evening will also include entertainment by Deanna Knight, musical guests & Vancouver’s The Hot Club of Mars.

Tickets: $19.95 plus service charges at voguetheatre.com.


Does Our Military Know Something We Don’t About Global Warming?

A United States Navy Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea. Every branch of the United States Military is worried that climate change is a significant threat multiplier for future conflicts. And the Navy may bear the brunt of these effects. Source: United States Navy

A United States Navy Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea. Every branch of the United States Military is worried that climate change is a significant threat multiplier for future conflicts. And the Navy may bear the brunt of these effects. Source: United States Navy

Every branch of the United States Military is worried about climate change. They have been since well before it became controversial. In the wake of an historic climate change agreement between President Obama and President Xi Jinping in China this week (Brookings), the military’s perspective is significant in how it views climate effects on emerging military conflicts.

China will be our biggest military and political problem by the middle of this century. It would be nice to understand what issues will exacerbate our struggles.

At a time when Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bush 41, and even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, called for binding international protocols to control greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. Military was seriously studying global warming in order to determine what actions they could take to prepare for the change in threats that our military will face in the future.

Continue reading here.


Google Maps Now Shows You if Climate Change Will Put Your Home Underwater

On our hottest and coldest days, we joke and whine about climate change and the terrible weather. But in 2015, we’re lucky that we don’t have to see the true effects of what might be ahead of us after global temperatures rise. That’s why this version of Google Maps is an eye-opener.

On Friday afternoon, Google Maps started showing what coastal L.A. would look like after a few feet of rising sea levels. The changes show up in neighborhoods like Malibu and Santa Monica.

This information comes on the same day as a worst-case scenario report showing that burning all of the Earth’s fossil fuels could raise our sea level hundreds of feet, making the scenarios pictured on Google seem quaint in relative devastation.

You can view the results online and in the Google Maps mobile app.

View it here.

In Canada, over 7 million Canadians live in coastal communities. ACT’s work on sea level rise has primarily been with the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project, a 5-year multinational research project to document these increased risks facing coastal cities. Learn more about our work with CCaR here.






Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF

fossil fuel

Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, said: “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.”

Continue reading here.




New Study: Waterworld Is Definitely Going to Happen

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

A new study has found that if humans burn all of the known reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas, virtually all the ice on the planet will melt, inundating the land with up to 200 feet of sea level rise.

The good news is we’ll all be long dead by the time this happens. Even at our current rate of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, the kind of catastrophic ice loss the study describes won’t take place for several thousand years. The exact timing is the hardest part for scientists to nail down; the ultimate outcome, however, is quite certain. One of the study’s authors, climatologist Anders Levermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, described it as similar to leaving an ice cube on a table in a hot room: You can be confident it will melt, even if you don’t know exactly when.

Continue reading here.

In Canada, over 7 million Canadians live in coastal communities. ACT’s work on sea level rise has primarily been with the Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR) project, a 5-year multinational research project to document these increased risks facing coastal cities. Learn more about our work with CCaR here.



Livable Cities Forum: ACT ED To Present on Financing Adaptation

LCF2015_sessionpromoER 2

Source: Livable Cities Forum

ACT’s Executive Director Deborah Harford will be speaking at the Livable Cities Forum, September 28-30 in Calgary.

Deborah’s panel session focuses on the economics of resilience. Implementing flood protection measures can be costly, particularly where it is being retrofitted into existing development. Uncertainty surrounding the economics of resiliency, for example the cost-benefit or the return on investment in resiliency measures, can make securing funding a challenge. Panelists will discuss the economics of flood protection- costs, opportunities, and challenges.

Deborah will share the stage with Elizabeth Atkinson from the Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change at the University of Waterloo, Monica Mannerstrom and Charlene Menezes from Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, and Dave McMillan from KGS Group.

To register or for more information on the forum, check out their website here.

Deborah’s talk will focus on ACT’s recent publication, “Paying for Urban Infrastructure Adaptation in Canada: An Analysis of Existing and Potential Economic Instruments for Local Governments“. This report analyzes various ways local governments can fund or finance adaptation projects, and as such is a valuable tool to catalyze local government action on adaptation. Read the report here.



Valuing Ecosystem Goods and Services in the Columbia River Basin

When decision makers undervalue the benefits we derive from nature, they underestimate the full costs to society of converting natural resources to uses that destroy or degrade natural capital. Recognition of the benefits of ecosystem goods and services (EGS) by policy makers is therefore an important step in formulating effective natural resources policy that is designed to benefit all other aspects of society and nature.

At a regional level, the long-term sustainability of the Columbia River and its communities depends on ecosystem functions. Despite these significant benefits, the topic of ecosystem goods and services is under-studied in the Columbia River Basin (CRB) and the magnitude of climate change and other impacts is poorly understood.

To help develop a better understanding of the benefits of ecosystems, this study reports best estimates of some of the current and future values of EGS in the US portion of the CRB, a 670,800 square-kilometer area of land drained by the Columbia River that spans parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, using data and techniques available at this time.

Our analysis clearly demonstrates the need for acknowledgment of non-market, ecosystem-based values as the sovereign parties consider options for renegotiation, or modification, of the Columbia River Treaty (CRT). We acknowledge that many cultural and spiritual ecosystem values transcend economic values. We present this work as a comment on the fact that the contribution of ecosystems to human well-being is currently valued at zero in the CRT.

This ACT report has three objectives:

  1. To identify the connections between food, water, energy, and biodiversity (the nexus) in the CRB.
  2. To estimate the economic value of some of the non-market benefits that ecosystems in the CRB provide to the US – as well as some of the costs to British Columbia incurred by the coordinated management of water flows under the CRT.
  3. To consider the effects on these values and connections between changing supplies and demands driven by a changing climate and a growing population.

This work builds on the work undertaken by ACT in development of our 2014 publication, The Columbia River Treaty: A Primer, available here from Rocky Mountain Books.

ACT would like to thank the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and the Real Estate Foundation of BC for their generous support in development of this report.

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